The UK government has just joined the ranks of countries and organizations that have banned the use of plastic microbeads from being used in cosmetics.
Microbeads, which are made from ground plastic pellets like those above, are used in products ranging from facial scrubs to toothpaste. They don’t break down in water treatment plants and, though they’re not toxic, harmful chemicals can stick to the microbeads and can be eaten by marine life. The contamination is then passed up the food chain — even to humans who eat seafood.
In addition to dozens of cosmetic companies pledging to ban the use of microbeads from their products, the USA passed legislation that prohibited the manufacturing and sale of microbead products in 2015.
The UK’s ban, which was originally passed in 2016, will initially prohibit the manufacturing of microbead products, while a ban on product sales will go into full effect in July.
“The world’s oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life,” said the UK’s environmental minister Thérèse Coffey, according to the Guardian. “Now we have reached this important milestone, we will explore how we can build on our world-leading ban and tackle other forms of plastic waste.”